Kenney seeks to remove Columbus statue from Marconi Plaza

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The Christopher Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza, before it was boarded up by city workers. The city is now seeking to remove the statue in July. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

The city is seeking to remove the Christopher Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza on Broad Street in South Philadelphia.

On Wednesday, city officials announced the beginning of a process, which will ask the Philadelphia Art Commission to approve the removal of the statue after a formal proposal on July 22.

The city is looking for input from residents through online written statements, which will be shared during the city’s proposal to the Art Commission.

The statue has sparked confrontations between protesters who want the statue removed and residents of South Philly who feel the monument represents Italian heritage.

Mayor Jim Kenney cited ongoing public safety concerns as the reason for the removal of the statue.

“Like many communities across the country, Philadelphia is in the midst of a much-needed reckoning about the legacy of systemic racism and oppression in this country and around the world,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Part of that reckoning requires reexamining what historical figures deserve to be commemorated in our public spaces. In recent weeks, clashes between individuals who support the statue of Christopher Columbus in Marconi Plaza and those who are distressed by its existence have deteriorated—creating a concerning public safety situation that cannot be allowed to continue. We must find a way forward that allows Philadelphians to celebrate their heritage and culture while respecting the histories and circumstances of others that come from different backgrounds.”

Despite the controversy, the statue has remained at the park, although it was boarded up by city workers last week. Protests continued at the park on Tuesday night.

“Philadelphia’s public art should reflect the people and spirit of our city without dividing us as a community. As we’ve seen demonstrated here and across the country, many of the individuals that are celebrated in bronze and stone are a point of pride to some, while causing great pain for others whose ancestors were impacted by their actions and whose communities still suffer under systems of oppression,” Public Art Director Margot Berg said. “While it may seem counterintuitive, the reality is that one aspect of managing a public art collection is the occasional removal of works from public view.”

Residents can share their thoughts on the Christopher Columbus Statue by completing an online form through July 21. Members of the public will also be able to provide comments at the Art Commission meeting, which will be announced at a later date.

More details on that process will be shared on the Philadelphia Art Commission’s website when available.